An astrophysicist and planetary scientist at MIT, Sara Seager's research focuses on theory, computation, and data analysis of exoplanets. Her instrumentation group is currently focused on 3U CubeSat, a miniaturized satellite with the goal of detecting small transiting exoplanets orbiting sun-like stars. The prototype will be the first of a fleet of nanosatellites.
In addition to being a professor, she is co-leading CommCube, a platform to demonstrate novel small satellite space communication technology, and is involved in the MIT-Harvard REXIS instrument on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission. She is also on the advisory board for Planetary Resources and the Rosalind Franklin Society. In 2007 she was the recipient of the American Astronomical Society's Helen B. Warner Prize, is an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellow, and is the 2012 recipient of the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Prize in the Physical Sciences. Named one of Time Magazine's 25 Most Influential People in Space in 2012, Nature's Top Ten in 2011, Discover Magazine's "Best 20 under 40" in 2008 and Popular Science Magazine's Fifth Annual Brilliant Ten in 2006.
Professor Seager was born and grew up in Toronto, Canada. She attended Jarvis Collegiate Institute, a high school known for its science education, before becoming an undergraduate at the University of Toronto. There she graduated with a B.Sc. in the Math and Physics Specialist Program. Following her B.Sc., she attended Harvard where she did her Ph.D. in Astronomy. At Harvard she studied under the Bulgarian astronomer Dimitar Sasselov, a professor of Astronomy and Director of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative.
During her time in Harvard, Sasselov encouraged Seager to study the atmospheres of the exoplanets being discovered. These exoplanets, known as Hot Jupiter planets, were at the time believed by most scientists to not be planets but the result of other phenomenon such as star variability. Despite this, Dr. Seager persevered in her research which was later validated.
After her Ph.D. in 1999, she joined the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton as a postdoctoral fellow where she was mentored by the American astrophysicist John Bahcall. His support led her to initiate several new topics in the characterization of exoplanets. After her postdoctoral fellowship, she spent four years at Carnegie Institution of Washington where she was a member of the senior research staff.